- 14 May 21
The third book in McInerney's acclaimed trilogy is out now.
There's a gang of powerful young women writers in Ireland right now. But the one they should all be looking up to is Lisa McInerney.
Lisa's debut novel The Glorious Heresies was a revelation. It introduced us to a cast of Cork misfits, who were larger than life and yet utterly convincing. Early on in the book, a pugnacious oul' one, Maureen Phelan, takes a swipe at someone's head with a Holy Stone – and all manner of fabulous madness ensues.
It was all fiercely entertaining stuff, written with marvellous verve and insight, and The Glorious Heresies – deservedly – walked off with the Women's Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliot Prize in 2016. The Blood Miracles followed in 2017, pushing Ryan Cusack – a young piano-playing drug dealer – centre stage, and it was equally wild, funny, dark and impressive.
Now comes The Rules of Revelation, the third part of the trilogy, which takes Ryan Cusack back to Cork, for a whirl at becoming a rock star. The familiar characters are all present and correct – except, of course, for the ones that were bumped off during the first two parts of this superbly told saga.
There are so many good things in The Rules of Revelation. For a start, Lisa McInerney is with the outsiders. Why do people live on the fringes? Why do they sell drugs or slip into sex work? Not because they are morally reprehensible. On the contrary, the ones that make up the rules that everyone else is forced to swallow are seen to have far less going for them than the kids emerging from Cork's working class estates.
The depiction of Ryan, for all his past misdemeanours, is of an innately decent – and talented – young man, who is trying to do his best in an often hostile world. Anyone who read The Blood Miracles will know that he has a dark secret. But it is not, it emerges, exactly as it might have seemed.
Drink and drugs are everywhere. While they are depicted as a fact of life without any moral weight in themselves, they often play an unhelpful role. So it is with an incident from Ryan's youth that has been haunting him. This is not, it transpires, a predictable tale of wrong-doing of which women are the inevitable victims, instead turning that trope firmly on its head.
Lisa McInerney is a fine writer who knows how to sharpen a sentence, and make every word count. She also writes brilliantly about music. The explanatory notes Ryan has provided to explain the songs on the upcoming Lord Urchin album – on which he is main singer and songwriter – read like they have been stolen off a studio console somewhere. She also describes the intra-band tensions and the infighting that takes hold as if it has all happened to her.
There is much to admire – and to chew on – in The Rules of Revelation. A father's love for his son; old grudges against the girl next door; a far less smart than she thinks PC provocateur who wants to stir things up just because she can; mates trying to find a collective voice despite the too frequent misdirection of youth; and behind it all, the wheels of capitalism, in all its different guises, whirring.
It ends in redemption, with Ryan and his music on the rise, and the increasingly iconic figure of a newly socially conscious Maureen Phelan being gloriously infected with the increasingly anarchic mood of the times. The Rules of Revelation ends on an uplifting, optimistic note. It is one to which the trilogy, and its superbly drawn characters are surely entitled.
Take a deep breath and hear this. Lisa McInerney's Cork trilogy is a major Irish literary achievement. And The Rules of Revelation is a riveting and essential read.
In the new issue of Hot Press, Lisa McInerney discusses Cork, class, gender, music, and adapting her work for the screen. Pick up your copy in shops now, or order online below: